Recently I attended a conversation.
The ‘conversation’ was the purpose of the gathering and the people seated around a rustic industrial-style table in a funky urban warehouse, were all (bar two) complete strangers to me. It seems, the idea of spending a Sunday afternoon discussing a predetermined topic has great appeal.
To my surprise, this group offered nothing to confirm my earlier suspicions. They seemed surprisingly normal and, after a few minutes of settling in and some brief introductions, it felt like I had known them for longer than the two minutes that I had.
With social media, we should probably feel more comfortable about sharing our creative ideas, experiences and knowledge. Perhaps, for some, it’s much easier online than face to face. Either way, conversations that matter are not easy to come by in our ordinary week. There are no shortage of topics, but the safe space for non-judgmental dialogue isn’t a guaranteed follow-on.
“We can put the chairs in a circle, but as long as they are occupied by people who have an inner hierarchy, the circle itself will have a divided life, one more form of “living within the lie”: a false community.”
I couldn’t say with certainty that everyone around the table agreed on all the things discussed and shared, and I also know that community is cultivated at a deeper level than a casual meeting of strangers for a conversation, but I did sense an openness to listen with humility and care. There was no shouting over the top of one another or waiting for someone to finish so they could pipe in with their bold comment.
There were several comfortable moments of silence and what seemed to be an unspoken agreement to listen openly to one another and not only for things that we had in common but for our differences too.
Only recently did I realise that many of my own friends and acquaintances were craving what this two-hour session was offering. The common ground being a willingness to share an authentic space. I’m not even sure that we were altogether like-minded, but it seemed that we were altogether willing to lay our judgements and cherished interpretations aside, albeit for a brief moment in our week.
There is no better way to value someone else than good listening. It is true as a mother, an employer, a friend, and as a stranger. It’s true in the middle of a high-rise city office building, our local café, and an urban poor community in the developed world. To bring attention to someone else and hold the space to share dreams, ideas, heartache, love and everything in between brings a deep sense of significance.
Making your ear attentive to wisdom and your heart inclined to understand, takes some practice. I loved that conversation with strangers. We don’t need them to make a start, though. Listen deeply to your loved ones, your neighbours and your friends today. Some of them are already talking.